The Healers: Orthopedic surgeon Chad Mahan (BS ’09)

Chad Mahan likes working with his hands and has always had a natural ability to look at complex mechanical problems and formulate creative solutions. Putting that talent to work, Mahan became an orthopedic surgeon.

“Whether I am fixing a broken bone or replacing a worn-out hip, I am able to use skill sets that I enjoy doing,” he says. 

Mahan’s career started in Colorado, where he grew up and discovered a knack for fixing things. He set his course for medical school while an undergraduate studying molecular biology, chemistry and medical physics at the University of Denver. 

“I felt well prepared from my DU education as I went on to medical school,” Mahan says. “As compared to many of my peers, I felt that I had a more well-rounded education without any gaps.”

As a student at St. Louis University School of Medicine, Mahan explored many different specialties but was particularly drawn to the branch of medicine that focuses on the care of the musculoskeletal system, which is made up of muscles and bones, joints, ligaments and tendons.

“After my first experience in orthopedics,” he says, “I never looked back.” 

Following graduation from medical school in 2014, Mahan did his residency training at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. There, he was exposed to a broad range of orthopedic conditions, including pediatric, infectious, degenerative, traumatic and post-traumatic. He also published multiple research papers as first author. For Mahan, this was a time of immense professional and personal growth.  

“Working in a city like Detroit, you witness medical, social and economic hardship,” he says. “After five long years serving in downtown Detroit, I found that I was a much more well-rounded and mature person than when I arrived.”

After his residency, Mahan went on to complete an adult reconstruction and hip preservation fellowship at the University of Utah in 2020. Today, he is back in the Centennial State, serving as an orthopedic surgeon specializing in reconstruction of the hip and knee at ValleyOrtho at Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs. 

As much as he delights in reconstructing joints, Mahan also enjoys getting to know his patients and hearing their life stories. “Building that kind of relationship makes it that much more rewarding when I help them get back to living their life to the fullest,” he explains. And while his research has garnered recognition from his peers, the most rewarding part of his work is seeing dramatic improvements in the lives of patients who suffer from chronic debilitating conditions.

“Seeing a postoperative patient come back to the office happy, pain-free and back to enjoying life … that is the only accomplishment I really think about regularly,” he says. 

Mahan credits his DU education with giving him a solid foundation for his career and life.

“Outside of science, I still think about lessons from thoughtful and insightful professors in my daily life, whether it be at work, at home or out with friends,” he says. “The many networking and social connections that I made at DU have proven useful anywhere in the country, both personally and professionally.”

Now his career has brought him back to where it all started—to Colorado and closer to family.

“I feel very fortunate to have found a career that I am naturally passionate about,” he says. “I am excited to go to work every day and take care of patients, getting them back to the activities that they enjoy.” 

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